Sustainability and Weatherization: Learning Cluster 2016

Application for the Luis & Linda Nieves Learning Cluster Grant
LC Long Title:
Sustainable Housing and Weatherization in low-income housing in Buenos Aires, Argentina
LC Short Title:
Sustainability and Weatherization
Sponsoring Faculty:
Tomás F. Crowder -Taraborrelli,
Visiting Professor of Latin American Studies
Once considered the Paris of Latin America due to its rich architectural history, Buenos Aires is now recognized for a dramatic surge of unregulated and unplanned suburban settlements. It is estimated that half a million families live in 864 slums in the metropolitan area. With an increasing population of economically disenfranchised citizens finding refuge in unregulated housing, Buenos Aires now faces the challenge of incorporating the illegal settlements into the city’s infrastructure to ensure their safety and livability.
Past Learning Cluster trips led by Professor Tomás Crowder-Taraborrelli have constructed environmentally sound dwellings in Buenos Aires, affording students the opportunity to apply sustainability research in a significant and contributive way.  To re-approach recent developments in Buenos Aires’ low-income housing crisis, 2016’s proposed Argentina Learning Cluster aims to complement the investigation of sustainable housing with specialized, hands-on weatherization training. This instruction would outfit students with the knowledge and skill set necessary to execute low-cost home improvements on site in Buenos Aires.      Participants of the Learning Cluster will collaborate directly with Dr. Nicolas Maggio, President of the Foro de Vivienda Social y Eficiencia Energética (FOVISEE)[1] and Weatherizers Without Borders (WWB)[2], to gain and implement their weatherization training.  Dr. Maggio will work in conjunction with the WWB to coordinate a four day trip to the city of Campana, where SUA and University of Buenos Aires (UBA) students will perform energy assessments and provide recommendations for participating low-income families. As Dr. Maggio explained in a 2014 weatherization interview, “the need for energy efficiency in existing housing becomes even more important for low-income families, as they end up paying more for energy and are subject to health and safety threats.”[3]
Timetable and Logistics
The Argentinian Weatherization Learning Cluster is inspired by three questions: first, what factors have contributed to making homes become unaffordable for most people in the world? Second, how can the Learning Cluster group diagnose the energy efficiency of unregulated homes and implement changes to improve their safety and economic viability? Third, how can sustainable practices explored in this Learning Cluster impact future generation?

The Argentinian Weatherization Learning Cluster will visit different neighborhoods in Buenos Aires to investigate the decisive historical, socioeconomic, and environmental factors that have shaped the urban identity of the city.  The Learning Cluster will compare traditionally wealthy neighborhoods like Barrio Norte, working class neighborhoods like La Boca, and transitioning neighborhoods like Palermo Soho and Puerto Madero, as well as the controversial Villa 31 slum. Students will also revisit the two dwellings built by previous Learning Clusters and meet with plastic artist Pablo Salvadó to participate in an intensive adobe construction workshop and discussion.[4]

[1] “The FOVISEE (Housing Forum, Sustainability and Energy)
is a foundation that works on the issues of housing, energy and poverty in order to promote energy efficiency. The Forum creates projects applied for energy efficiency in housing, produces opportunities for dialogue and exchange on these issues, and seeks to raise awareness in society about the importance of energy efficiency in housing in general and social housing in particular. “
[2] “WWB fights energy inefficiency and energy poverty, improving the health, safety comfort, and economy of families across the globe.”
[4] *For more information about the previous sustainable housing projects, please visit our Learning Cluster websites:

The training is broken into three components:
1) Pre-training
2) Training
3) Field mentoring in Campana. 
The first component of training will occur in Buenos Aires and consist of three days of weatherization instruction, encompassing topics such as Energy Auditing and Retrofitting of dwellings. WWB will provide intensive classroom, hands-on field mentoring and online training to students, including Retrofit Installer Technician, HVAC Fundamentals and Energy Auditor.
 The second component of training will entail three days of classroom and field training with weatherization equipment and WWB mentors.
 The third component of training will apply weatherization knowledge to the geographic location of Campana. Students will gather information about health, safety issues within a home, quality of life, energy, and environmental impacts.
During the Learning Cluster, students will form teams according to their interests. These teams will be coordinated by Professor Crowder-Taraborrelli and Dr. Maggio and include:
* A design team (which will consider the structural styles of homes and buildings)
* A budget team (which will calculate costs for purchasing equipment and materials)
*An environmental and services team (which will assess the resources available in the area)
* A building team (which will coordinate the field work)
Over the course of the Learning Cluster, students will create a fifteen to twenty minute documentary film to be presented at the Learning Cluster Fair.  The short documentary will educate SUA students about the practical, structural, and societal effects of sustainable living, as well as demonstrating the positive effects of weatherization on low-income families in Buenos Aires. In the end, the goal is to shed light on the benefits of weatherization and its potential international significance regarding impoverished areas on a global scale.
Course Objectives
1. Gain a deeper understanding of the significance of sustainable living where environmentally stable housing and financial security is under threat.
2. Research the process and practice of sustainable construction and weatherization.
3. Critically analyze the contrasting architectural styles as well as the use of materials among affluent and impoverished communities.
4. Create meaningful relationships between the group and organizations in Argentina dedicated to building sustainable homes and weatherizing homes.
5. Facilitate discussions that encourage social change through community activism.
Learning Outcomes
Team building; experience hands on learning; production of a short- documentary film.
As the universal movement for sustainable living collects momentum, the students of this Learning Cluster will have a much more expansive and tangible understanding of what it takes to bring the theory of sustainable living into practice. By visiting and exploring wealthy and poor neighborhoods alike, students will gain knowledge of both the materials and resources that have been utilized, in a highly contrasting way, to create the city of Buenos Aires. Students will aspire to achieve the following learning outcomes in a variety of ways:
Develop students’ habits of independent inquiry and study: Prior to leaving for Argentina, all students will form research teams and present their findings to the rest of the class. The documentary aspect of the project in Argentina will provide another avenue for independent growth, as students will be able to develop their own questions. These questions will be asked in interviews to provide professional intel on sustainable living and the weatherization process. Above all, the film will organize visual material to complement the pedagogical objectives of the Learning Cluster.
Engender analytical and investigative skills in order to apply them to a specific problem or question: During the first days in Argentina, students will develop questions and expectations based both on their own research as well as research presented by their classmates. Once questions have been developed, research and firsthand experience will be combined in order to bridge the gap between theory and practice.
Enhance the ability to work collaboratively: Students will be working together to organize the trip, develop the documentary interviews, divide the subject matter, and create a cohesive final project.  They will also have to develop a steadfast work ethic to include all team members, both domestic and international, who will be collaborating and contributing to the success of the project.  The experience in its entirety will require students to depend on each other’s skills, including Spanish speaking abilities, different cultural understandings, and creative writing talents.
Foster a contributive ethic by working on issues that have a larger social significance or meaning: The creation of sustainable housing immediately benefits the community and environment. In addition, it provides people who cannot afford the standard industrialized corporate approach to building with a beneficial alternative. Furthermore, we will spread this knowledge of the feasibility of this type of sustainable living and weatherization through our documentary.
Prepare students for their roles as engaged global citizens:  Through personal encounters, new experiences, hands on creation, community collaboration, and inquiry into government regulations, critical evaluation of materials and resources, and an overall objective of contributing to the sustainability of humanity, this experience in Argentina will help deepen the understanding of what it means to be a global citizen.
Impact on SUA Community

Upon return, students from this Learning Cluster will attempt to impact the SUA community in an innovative manner that will shed light upon the environmental inquiries that are very much alive on-campus. Bringing awareness of our LC project to the SUA community will allow for a gradual shift in the way our generation perceives sustainable living in the United States, and especially, in Orange County. Understanding, for instance, the implications of renewable and solar energy will help SUA students realize that we each have the capacity to push the “eco-friendly–go green” movement even further. This will instill a sense of pride in our students to contribute to the global community on an exceedingly prudent and moral level.
SUA takes great pride in the Language and Culture Program. A majority of our LC class is studying the Spanish language. By traveling to Argentina to experience the culture and life in Latin America, we can share our discoveries and challenges in working in another language with fellow students back home. We envision that this LC’s travel component will empower others to better their language skills and cultural literacy by immersing themselves in a Latin American culture.
Finally, the meaning behind the word “Soka”—to create value—is also tied into our LC’s belief that through the creation of sustainable living spaces, we can create value on our own. A home is one of the most quintessential parts of being human. Humans need shelter, and creating a home can both accomplish that goal and represent part of the human identity within society. By collaborating together as a team to build sustainable living space through weatherization, we hope to re-define what value means within a home. A home cannot simply be a composition of nails, wood and paint–it needs to be a practical structure that will promote sustainable living options. Therefore, we believe that giving, instead of taking, is what matters most in this paradigm for sustainable dwellings. We feel that such a message will resonate with the SUA community. Can value be created within a home? Why is it important to give back? These are some of the working questions that define our Learning Cluster.
Significance of Fieldwork and Location
While abroad, this Learning Cluster will study the architectural history of Buenos Aires, and construct a true model of sustainable architecture. As sustainable architecture is still in its infancy, contributing to a fully self-sustaining housing project is a rare opportunity that can influence the current perception and future of sustainable eco-housing.

          Buenos Aires is the heart and spirit of Argentina, and the focus of this LC. Touring the city and buildings in Argentina is vital in this critical study to decipher the distinct differences between communities within the city. More developed areas of the city are already retrofitted with some of the weatherization methods that have yet to reach the more underprivileged nearby communities. Studying urban development in Buenos Aires, Argentina allows us to understand the potential role of sustainable housing in nearby communities.

      The opportunity given to the students to travel to Argentina will profoundly affect the way in which these students comprehend the rapidly growing slums at a time in which an unstable and unforgiving economy exists for all. They are found in rural areas and as well as in populous cities such as in Buenos Aires. According to July 2004 estimates, there are about 640 precarious neighborhoods in suburban Buenos Aires, comprising of 690,000 residents and 111,000 households. The population of the villas miseria in the city of Buenos Aires property doubled during the 1990s, reaching about 120,000 as of 2005, which is continuously growing today. Many of these houses were built with no regards to sustainability and do not meet modern weatherization standards. Today over half a million residents live in these slums. These statistics show how important it is to study the reasons behind not only how both slums, such as “neighborhoods of misery” and cities are built and where they are located, but also of laying the foundation for the reasons why they exist and how weatherization can improve the lives of their residents.
In Buenos Aires, the students will be staying at a local hostel, Borges Design Hostel, located in Palermo Soho, Buenos Aires. Situated in the heart of the city, the Borges Hostel has modern interior within a classic 1920s-era building structure. Each room contains a bathroom, TV, patio, and kitchen for possible meal preparations. The Borges Design Hostel is close to transportation and is in one of the safest neighborhoods.

Contact e-mail address:
Contact phone number: 54. 11. 4777. 8174
Official website:


This LC is planning to leave the United States from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on Friday, January 15th and arrive at Ezeiza Airport in Buenos Aires on Saturday January 16th. The students will then take 4 taxis to the Borges Design Hostel. Due to the immense size of the city, during the stay in Buenos Aires, the students take public transportation colectivos (buses) and a private shuttle to complete the fieldwork in Campana.

Itinerary, course reading and activities

Dates: Monday, January 11th to February 3rd 2016

Week 1

Monday Jan. 11:
10AM- 12PM: Review syllabus with the class and course/objective overview. Form groups. Assign group and/or individual research based questions and topics for course.

Discuss readings: Rock, Chapters 8 and 9, Sernau Chapter 10 (Social Inequality), and Bird/Hernandez.

Screening: Garbage Warrior.
1PM-3PM: First day of online weatherization training

Tuesday Jan 12:
10AM-12PM: Overview of history of urban development in Buenos Aires, Argentina since the 1970’s.

Discuss Readings: Wilson, Part 1 and 3 and Carns. Overview of sustainable housing in/around Buenos Aires, Argentina

1PM-3PM: Second day of online weatherization training.

Wednesday Jan 13:
10AM-12PM: Screening: Las manos, el barro, la casa

and Earthship-Britanny Groundhouse Discuss documentary and implications.
Discuss readings: Carns, Chapter 7 and Sanchez Chapter 1. Form teams.
1PM-3PM: Third day of online weatherization training.
Screening: Edwards Aliso Viejo This Changes Everything

Thursday Jan 14:
10AM-12PM: Discuss readings: Phillips, Chapter 14 and 16. Minke, Chapter 2 and 3, Fryer Chapters 4 and 5.
1PM-3PM: Fourth day of weatherization online training.
Friday Jan 15:
No Class

Saturday Jan 16:
No Class
Sunday Jan 17:
No Class
Week 2
Mon Jan 18:
Travel Day
Departing Soka at 9 a.m.

Flight departs LAX  at 1p.m.

Tues Jan 19:

Arrival time: 10:40 a.m.
1PM: Meet at Tomas’ apartment:  Teams discuss reading according to their team topic and assignment while eating lunch.
Water, discuss reading: Ludwig, Chapter 7 and Dahlhausen. Schroder, Ogletree, Chapters 2, 3, 4, 5.
2PM-3PM: Meet with Nicolas Maggio from FOVISEE collaborating institution. Conduct short interview to better understand housing development and weatherization in Buenos Aires.
5PM: Dinner
7PM: Daily Reflection on Angel. Dinner with plastic artist Pablo Salvadó to discuss techniques of adobe construction.

Wednesday Jan 20:
7 AM: Breakfast
8AM-1 PM: Sociological perspective for the study of housing, energy and sustainability

City, housing, energy, sustainability in Buenos Aires. The social factor of energy efficiency in buildings. The case of low income housing. Research methodologies in housing, energy and sustainability
1 PM: Lunch
2 PM: Return to hostel.
5PM: Discuss reading: Hunter Chapter 4.
7PM: Dinner
8PM: Daily Reflection on Angel. Teams meet to discuss progress of earth building.

Thursday Jan 21:

7AM: Breakfast.
8AM-1 PM:
Explaining the broad gap between theory and practice. Weatherization in Buenos Aires.
1 PM: Lunch
2 PM: Return to hostel.
7PM: Dinner
8PM: Daily Reflection on Angel. Teams meet to discuss progress of earth building.

Friday January 22:
8AM: Departure to Campana.

10AM: Arrive at location. Real homes Energy and Sustainability Auditing. Participation in real weatherization work. Filming and interviews with families. Measuring results of the performed retrofits.
1PM: Lunch
2PM: Return to city
7PM: Dinner
8PM: Daily Reflection on Angel.

Saturday January 23:

8 AM: Departure to Campana
10AM: Arrive at location. Real homes Energy and Sustainability Auditing. Participation in real weatherization work. Filming and interviews with families. Measuring results of the performed retrofits.
1 PM: Lunch

2 PM: Return to city
5PM: Return to hostel
6PM: Dinner
8PM: Work on short documentary film about weatherization and sustainability.

Sunday January 24:

8 AM: Departure to Campana
10AM: Arrive at location. Real homes Energy and Sustainability Auditing. Participation in real weatherization work. Filming and interviews with families. Measuring results of the performed retrofits.
1 PM: Lunch

2 PM: Return to city
5PM: Return to hostel
6PM: Dinner
8PM: Work on short documentary film about weatherization and sustainability..

Week 3

Monday January 25:
8 AM: Departure to Campana

10AM: Arrive at location. Real homes Energy and Sustainability Auditing. Participation in real weatherization work. Filming and interviews with families. Measuring results of the performed retrofits.
1 PM: Lunch
2 PM: Return to city
5PM: Return to hostel
6PM: Dinner
8PM: Work on short documentary film about weatherization and sustainability.

Tuesday January 26:
8 AM: Departure to Campana
10AM: Arrive at location. Real homes Energy and Sustainability Auditing. Participation in real weatherization work. Filming and interviews with families. Measuring results of the performed retrofits.
1 PM: Lunch
2 PM: Return to city
5PM: Return to hostel
6PM: Dinner
8PM: Work on short documentary film about weatherization and sustainability.

Wednesday January 27:
9:00 AM: Processing information and video from WWB-Soka experience. Preparation of presentations for the LC and Weatherizers Without Border’s Summit (in Pauling). 
Open day
Thursday January 28:
Depart from hostel for airport at 6 p.m.
Departs EZE airport at 10 p.m.

Friday January 29:
Arrives at LAX at 11:10 a.m.
1P.M.-3 P.M.: Continue to edit and work on film material.

Week 4

Monday February 1:

10AM-12PM: Finalize any film editing needed.
1PM-3PM: Film finalizing continued.

Tuesday February 2:
10-12AM: Meet to discuss and launch our short film on YouTube.
1-3PM: Discuss our Learning Cluster Fair Presentation. (TBA)

Wednesday February 3:
10 AM-2 P.M. : Learning Cluster Fair

2:30-4:00 Presentation at Soka University of America in Pauling 216.

End of Winter Block

*We will be filming throughout our Learning Cluster. The objective is to create a short film documentary (15-20 min) about our group and individual studies on Urban Development, Architecture, Sustainable Housing and Weatherization in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
*Students will submit photo essays, personal essays, and possibly more material about their experiences with building, their time spent in the city, and the economic, social, and environmental issues they study.

Collaborating Institutions

* below is a statement from the non-profit organization
The founders of FOVISEE are a group of professionals sharing a strong commitment towards the improvement of our society. For over 10 years we have worked on the design and implementation of programs on access to energy in low income communities.
The context which inspired us is one of a developing country, where large numbers of the population live under the line of poverty, where the social policies agenda targeted at these people does not include sustainability or energy efficiency topics. The Argentine state builds annually around 36,000 new social housing units, where construction is based on living space needs and reduced budget not including energy efficiency criteria, so it yearly adds thousands of homes that will waste energy for decades and lessen families’ comfort.
To make up for the lack of experience, we built and measured new energy efficient affordable housing model units, and designed, applied and measured rehabilitation models. Determined to influence public policies, we base our work on feasibility; and believe that the most definitive way of assessing it is actually carrying out applied field projects. During our experience we attempted to carry out several ideas with unsuccessful results, where the lessons were all the more valuable than with successful cases: it has helped us rule out ideas that were impracticable, too costly, complicated, or fragile; and also helped us work on ideas that were originally flawed, but could be improved.
FOVISEE does not charge for its services. Sponsorships and donations from businesses and individuals are the foundation’s financial sources. But above everything, the specificity of the Forum is to gather different institutions that contribute to the projects with human, technical and financial resources. The main partners from the beginning of the Forum are:
CIHE (Center of Research on Habitat and Energy), Architecture Faculty, University of Buenos Aires: Professional advising.
DRS-UTN (Social Responsibility Department, National Technological University): Human resources and logistics support.
INTI (National Institute of Industrial Technology): Institutional support and professional advising.
Edenor (largest electrical distributor of Argentina): Financial, logistical and human resources support.
As mentioned in the itinerary, this Learning Cluster will meet with representatives of this non-profit organization to discuss the implications of sustainable housing for impoverished communities. Students will conduct a short interview to gain clarity on urban development policies in inner-city neighborhoods where most Techo volunteers work to improve the quality of life for members of each area. This organization maintains an exceptional standard that coincides with the objectives of the course.

* below is a statement from the non-profit organization

TECHO pursues three strategic objectives: (1) The promotion of community development in slums, through a process of community strengthening that promotes representative & validated leadership, drives the organization and participation of thousands of families living in slums to generate solutions of their own problems. (2) Fostering social awareness and action, with special emphasis on generating critical and determined volunteers working next to the families living in slums while involving different actors of society. (3) Political advocacy that promotes necessary structural changes to ensure that poverty does not continue reproducing, and that it begins to decrease rapidly.

Vision: A fair and poverty free society, where everyone has the opportunities needed to develop their capacities and fully exercise their rights

Mission: Work Tirelessly to overcome extreme poverty in slums, through training and joint action of families and youth volunteers. Furthermore, to promote community development, denouncing the situation in which the most excluded communities live. And lastly, to advocate for social policies with other actors in society.

Asociación Guardianes del Ambiente (A.Gu.A)
* below is a statement from the non-profit organization

The Asociación Guardianes del Ambiente (A.Gu.A) is a non-profit organization that has as a mission the development of the “sense of initiative” to create the tools to preserve environmental harmony through formal and informal education. A. Gu. A was founded by professors and students of the Instituto Pizzurno de Enseñanza Integral, Nivel ESB and Polimodal. It organizes international and national gatherings, lectures, workshops and and seminars to promote the sense of responsability towards the environment. A. Gu. A has became an space of training, exchange, and reflection between Educational Institutions and their students to foster the action of youth in the political decisions of sustainability in Argentina.

Person in charge: Gustavo Horacio Vera
Contact: /

Through this organization, we would be able to meet with students to establish dialogue about our projects and exchange ideas.

The Asociación Guardianes del Ambiente (A.Gu.A):
Learning Cluster Budget
January 15th to January 31st 2016

Health and Safety

*For the following reasons, Buenos Aires is considered to be a relatively safe place to stay.

1. Health

Buenos Aires has a temperate climate that ranges from subtropical in the north and sub polar down south. During the month of January, we will be experiencing an Argentine Summer, which turns out to be relatively hot with high moisture readings. The Center for Disease Control states that Malaria should not be a concern since Buenos Aires is an urban center. It does, however, recommend for travelers to have their vaccines up to date, which will be required of all students in the group.

2. The Popularity of the Destination

According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, Buenos Aires is the second most desirable city to visit. This suggests that Buenos Aires is as safe as any other major urban hub.

3. Safety Rules and Guidelines

The students will always be required to remain in groups of 2-3 people at all times. It is recommended that all members of the core group be informed when a small group separates. It is also important that a fluent Spanish speaker be assigned to each smaller group at all times. The students will be oriented on safe practices for a major city of this type but are also expected to exercise common sense.



The official spoken language in Buenos Aires, Argentina is Spanish. The sponsoring faculty, Professor Tomas Crowder-Taraborrelli, is a native Argentine, fluent in both English and Spanish. Three of the students in this Learning Cluster group are native Spanish speakers, 2 other students are fluent and about 3 are capable of understanding and communicating back fairly well.

Accompanying Faculty

Tomás Crowder-Taraborrelli, Visiting Assistant Professor of Latin American Studies,
will be the accompanying faculty. He led two successful Learning Clusters to Brazil (2010), San Diego/Tijuana (2011), and Argentina (2012, 213, 214). All class meetings will be held in an apartment in Buenos Aires outfitted with AV equipment.


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